How to Dream in Quarantine
This week was supposed to be one of our favorite annual events, Conclave. Hundreds of student ministry leaders trek to Chattanooga, TN in January every year, and have for the last 20+ years. The drive to Chattanooga is filled with scenic views, the downtown filled with things to see and more importantly, taste, and what makes the biggest difference of all, are the people inside the Chattanooga Convention Center gathering to learn, be inspired, and dream. And this Thursday, you’re not going to be eating a burger from Urban Stack, you’re going to eat leftover tacos or PB&J, at home, with no leaves on the trees to even give you an ounce of inspiration.
The combination of distancing yourself from the clutter of the calendar and putting miles between you and your routine have provided many of us the space to dream and be inspired in years past. We use conferences like Conclave as our way to separate ourselves from the mundane, to get a 30,000 ft view of things, instead of being stuck waist-deep in what feels like a swamp.
Can you imagine a big ol’ 18-wheeler with thousands of gallons of fuel in tow completely stopped on the side of the interstate because their truck has run out of gas? Is that how your leaders and families see you or how your students see your leaders? You and your ministry leaders need to have reason to fervently hope for what is ahead. So do what it takes to get out of the swamp, clean up, and start seeing where God is leading you. So here are 3 steps to take to create space for you to dream.
1. Have a plan
What’s your schedule, how much time will you have, will you be unplugged from distraction, who is doing it with you, how will you discuss, how will you turn your inspiration into something actionable, and who will hold you accountable? Going to a coffee shop the next town over may be exactly what you need, don’t make it too grandiose. If you can’t set aside 8 hours over the course of 2 days, set aside 1 hour a day, once a week, for 2 months. It doesn’t have to be a long duration, do what you know you can do. Don’t set yourself up for frustration.
What will you do during this time? Will you watch old sermons, get specific podcast episode recommendations from others, read God’s word and listen while Siri counts down from 20:00 for you? You don’t need to plan anything revolutionary for God to give you a revelation.
Do you want to come up with goals for each area of ministry? What type of goals will you create? I encourage you to write goals that align with your mission rather than goals that align with your programming. If last year taught us anything, its that we know we can’t depend on doing what we’ve always done. 2021 did not get ushered in with a, “We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming” announcement. You may feel pressure to “dream big” during this time and despite how cool to have a big vision, don’t settle for something you won’t execute.
You need to plan to walk away from this time with clarity. If you can’t make it clear, you won’t inspire others. Having a vague vision is like a bland casserole. “I’m not sure what was in that” kind of reaction from your taste buds. You owe it to yourself to have something you can serve proudly to your real buds.
2. Make it happen
“A plan without hard work is just a daydream, but hard work without a plan is a nightmare.” Will Mancini, or a japanese proverb, not sure.
The point is, you need to walk away with a change you can realistically implement. You have to establish a plan for your:
- accountability (who will you tell and let into this dream)
- execution (what, how, when, think rhythm)
- celebration (how will you know you’ve done it, so that you can celebrate).
Knowing that you will walk out of this retreat growing with others and being the change agent God is calling you to be will give you great joy in celebrating how God is working.
3. Don’t do it alone
I encourage you to invite some accountability into this process. Tell others what you are doing, invite them to do it with you, decide on how you will discuss, or invite them over and cook for them too. Just because you are physically distanced for this retreat, doesn’t mean you have to socially distance. That is, after all, one of the benefits of going to conferences that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s important to have the plan together before you invite others.
Another person you need to think about is your spouse. If you’re going to commit to taking a retreat, no matter how small, invite your spouse to pray for you and include them on why this is needed. It may also be wise to get the plan together before you “present” this to your significant other. Or just make an unannounced trip into the woods for 5 hours, whatever works for y’all.
And who knows how God will use this to encourage others to do the same thing. We’re sad we’re not at Conclave, but we know God is still doing amazing things all across the world. We’re so thankful for faithful churches and leaders still committed to the mission of Christ, especially for those in our state of GA.